The Lifetime Achievement Award recipient is selected by the Loeb Awards’ distinguished panel of final judges. Previous recipients include Hobart Rowen, economics columnist of The Washington Post; Carol J. Loomis, board of editors of Fortune; James W. Michaels, editor of Forbes; Leonard Silk, columnist and editorial writer of The New York Times; Marshall Loeb, former managing editor of Fortune and Money magazines; Jane Bryant Quinn, contributing editor of Newsweek; Alan Abelson, columnist of Barron’s; Stephen Shepard, editor-in-chief of BusinessWeek; Norman Pearlstine, editor-in-chief of Time Inc.; Allan Sloan, Wall Street editor of Newsweek; Paul E. Steiger, managing editor and vice president of The Wall Street Journal; Floyd Norris, chief financial correspondent of The New York Times; Louis Rukeyser, economic commentator, financial adviser and host of “Louis Rukeyser’s Wall Street” on CNBC; Byron E. “Barney” Calame, public editor, The New York Times; Myron Kandel, founding financial editor, CNN; Matthew Winkler, editor-in-chief, Bloomberg News; Daniel Hertzberg, deputy managing editor, international, The Wall Street Journal; Bill Emmott, former editor-in-chief, The Economist; Walt Bogdanich, assistant investigative editor, The New York Times; Steven Pearlstein, economics columnist, The Washington Post; John Huey, former editor-in-chief, Time Inc, James Flanigan, business and financial journalist, Los Angeles Times; James Grant, editor & founder, Grant’s Interest Rate Observer; and Paul Ingrassia, Managing Editor, Reuters.
The hand-cut crystal Waterford globe presented to the Lifetime Achievement Award recipient is symbolic of the qualities honored by the Loeb Awards program: integrity, illumination, originality, clarity and coherence.
When Walt Mossberg started his career in tech more than two decades ago, he began his first "Personal Technology" column with this prescient sentence: "Personal computers are just too hard to use, and it isn't your fault."
Hard to use. Yep. Isn't your fault. Double truth.
With those simple and forthright words, the most significant career in tech journalism was launched. It has changed the way most of us think about all the gadgets and digital change that has overwhelmed our lives ever since.
Throughout this digital invasion, Walt has been an unfailingly ethical, fair and savvy guide, leading his readers through a complex landscape and putting them at the center of everything he does. That's no small thing. Tech journalism had long been (and still is) littered with fanboy writers who can only seem to cheerlead everything that emerges from Silicon Valley. Even if it was too often not fully formed, and not nearly ready for the average consumer to use. Walt has never done that. Speaking with respect and in plain English to those who have relied on him over the years, he never made the mistake of descending into cynicism or its ugly sibling, snark. When Walt didn't like something, he said so; when he did, he didn't hide his enthusiasm for good work well done. That balance is harder to strike than you might imagine. Being loud and opinionated too often seems to win over an opinion based on rigorous reporting, analysis and, most of all, experience.
We have all benefited from Walt's experience, which has grown and become more profound and valuable over time. I know have. When I met him, I was a pretty green reporter working on a book about the then-nascent internet (it was so early that it was actually called "online services"). He was one of the few people who clearly understood what was about to happen, and quickly grokked its implications. As a longtime supporter of emerging talent, Walt was unfailingly generous with his time and wisdom, and more. He was the one who got me a job at The Wall Street Journal, even ovewr resistance, to cover this new digital beat.
To say that Walt changed my life is a massive understatement. I moved to San Francisco from Washington, D.C. and began a long journey, as the tech world became the most influential sector of business and, really, our whole culture. All along that way, Walt has been a mentor, an advisor, a business partner, a co-editor, a co-producer and, most of all, a true friend. I can count on my hand the number of times we have truly disagreed, and there are not enough stars in the sky to number the times he has helped me be a better journalist and person.
Lots of people know Walt - trying to walk with him down the corridors of CES, nearly trampled by admirers who want to say hello and thanks, is what I imagine it must be like to be a rock star - but here are some things I know that you might not:
He is a huge Star Trek fan, and can tell you the plot to every one of the shows, even if you didn't ask. (Don't ask!)
He loves to visit battlefields for reasons I have yet to understand lo these many years.
He smokes cigars, even if he shouldn't, at a cigar store I have never been invited to, ever.
He has been a champion of women his entire career. Once, he wouldn't let me invite Howard Stern to one of our events because he didn't like the way Stern talked about pretty much everyone, especially females.
He orders some sort of wacky Trenta Starbucks coffee that I still never get right after all this time.
He walked me down the aisle for my wedding, was my first visitor after my son was born, and has been present for pretty much every major event since, in good times and bad.
That is perhaps the most important thing you need to know about Walt Mossberg. He's a mensch, a very good man, and the kind of colleague and friend that is both rare and so very valuable to find. And he's always right: technology is still just too hard to use, and it still isn't your fault.
Ingrassia's career path looks quaint in the era of blogs and social media. He began with a gig at a college paper, progressed to a job on a newspaper in a small city where he was able to tackle big subjects on a small platform, and finally worked his way to a national newspaper, The Wall Street Journal.
Ingrassia was not, and is not, a revolutionary by nature. But he saw the importance of revolutions going on around him, and throughout his career sought to illuminate the forces - and the people - driving upheaval. In 1969, the University of Illinois football team had a perfect season - no wins, and 10 losses. It was an ignominious first for a school where football mattered. Ingrassia interviewed some of the seniors on the team, who - once granted anonymity - unloaded in detail what had gone wrong and how they felt about playing for such a losing side. "They have a story to tell - a starkly human story. It is a story of hopes dashed, of turbulent events, of joy, of pain, of bitterness, and disgust," Ingrassia wrote. His instinct that losers also have stories to tell would serve him well later, when the losers in question were the top of executives of the world's largest auto maker. The University of Illinois campus was rocked by sometimes violent anti-war protests during Ingrassia's junior and senior years. Ingrassia, then the paper's editor, confronted police who raided the Daily Illini's offices, demanding film the paper's photographers had shot of the demonstrations. Some of those shots showed a protestor who had jumped the city's police chief and was pummeling him. Ingrassia was unsure what to do with the pictures, fearing the protestor would be identified and arrested for his act. "We just ran the photo," Ingrassia said. "The kid was arrested. It's what you do." By the time Ingrassia graduated from the University of Illinois in 1972, what had started as a means-to-an-end interest in reporting had become a deeper commitment. By 1976, he had landed a job in the Chicago bureau of The Wall Street Journal. In 1985, he was assigned to take over the Journal's bureau in Detroit.
It wasn't immediately obvious, but he had landed in the middle of another revolution - and a turning point in his life. When Ingrassia arrived in Detroit, the conventional view of the U.S. auto industry's story was this: Detroit's Big Three were booming in the Reagan recovery. The Japanese auto makers? Merely an annoyance. U.S. government import quotas and the return of cheap gasoline would see them off. Ingrassia embraced Detroit, making friends among the automotive executives, lawyers and suppliers. He did not, however, embrace the auto industry's group think. Most memorably, in April 1992, General Motors issued a press release announcing that the company's president, Lloyd Reuss, would be replaced. There were other changes at the top, though the company's then- CEO was left in place, and GM declared he had the full support of the company's board. In the days following the announcement, Ingrassia sought out the losers in the shakeup and pursued his hunch that what had happened at GM was nothing less than a coup by the company's outside directors. He persuaded some of the stunned insiders to talk - as he had done with the traumatized members of the Illinois football team years before. This was the era of the imperial CEO. It was unheard of for outside directors at a Fortune 50 company to confront a chief executive, let alone take control of the company. That article, and others about GM's 1992 crisis, led Ingrassia to a Pulitzer Prize for beat reporting that he and I shared in 1993, and a Gerald Loeb Award the same year. It also led to Ingrassia's first book deal, and the first of three books about the auto industry he would write in the following years. In 1994, Ingrassia moved into a senior role at the Dow Jones News Service - the "ticker" that was then a revenue engine for the company that owned The Wall Street Journal. He was responsible for hundreds of reporters across a myriad of beats. But he still found time to weigh in on stories, land interviews and attend the Detroit Auto Show. After leaving Dow Jones in 2007, Ingrassia's plan was to downshift and work on a fun book about American cars that captured the spirit of their times. That plan went to hell along with the auto industry in 2008, and Ingrassia saw that the book he had to write was one that dissected the collapse of General Motors and Chrysler into federally funded bankruptcies.
That book, "Crash Course: The American Automobile Industry's Road from Glory to Disaster," was published in January 2010 and became the first book to chronicle the story behind the auto bailout. (The fun book, "Engines of Change: A History of the American Dream in Fifteen Cars," had to wait until 2012.)
Ingrassia's effort to escape daily headlines veered off course again in 2011 when he was recruited to join Reuters as managing editor overseeing a worldwide organization of 2,500 journalists covering everything from famine, flood and war to soybean prices and interest rates. Reuters presented a different scale and a different culture from Dow Jones, but Ingrassia did not change his methods. "Paul didn't know how to open a spreadsheet. But he did know how to talk about news," said Richard Mably, the Reuters editor in charge of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. "Staff were surprised to find an editor was actually reading their stories - seemingly every day and at any time of day. And sending them notes when they wrote good ones." Ingrassia instituted a daily global call that, for the first time, gave Reuters editors in Asia, Europe and the Americas a regular forum to talk with each other about the news of the day. He was a reporter first, and when he saw a memorable story, he'd just go ahead and write it. Attending a dinner with Russian President Vladimir Putin shortly after the annexation of Crimea, Ingrassia drew inspiration from the menu. "You can't say Vladimir Putin lacks a pointed sense of humor. The entrée at the Russian president's dinner for news agency editors on Saturday night was 'Crimean flounder.' No kidding," Ingrassia wrote as the lead to his story about the meal. Ingrassia's position at the time did not require him to write anything. He wrote because he enjoyed it and to show journalists who worked for him that "news" is not just the spinach of communiqués and formal policy. It is also the stuff that makes you laugh. Now officially retired, Ingrassia is considering another book project and working with car collector Miles Collier to develop a multimedia publishing operation at an automotive think tank and museum near Naples, Florida. The Revs Institute has an extensive library of automotive literature, a digital archive of classic car photographs and a museum of over 100 vehicles, including Duesenbergs, Bugattis and a Trabant, parked next to a Volkswagen Beetle. Yet again, Ingrassia has found the perfect vehicle for his talents.
I was born on July 26, 1946, under a bond-bearish star. As my twin brother and I were carted home from the hospital, long Treasurys were priced to yield 2 ¼ percent. It was the third month of what would prove to be a 35-year bond bear market. I compose this, my life story, in the 33rd year of a bond bull market. My wife, Patricia Kavanagh, M.D., and I live in Brooklyn. We have four grown children and one grandson.
I came late in life to the work of interest-rate observation. In boyhood, at various intervals, I wanted to become a first baseman, naval officer, dairy farmer and French horn player. I don't say that interest rates and monetary affairs never entered my mind, but they rarely pushed their way to the front of it. I had a passbook savings account that paid, I think, 4 percent interest; I remember that no one seemed to think it unusual that real silver coins circulated from hand to hand. I grew up in Williston Park, New York, in the middle of Nassau County on Long Island. By the time I was 18, the bond bear market - the one that had started in 1946 - was beginning to get its legs. I was in the Navy by then, an ordinary sailor, a gunner's mate, not an officer. I returned to college, from which I had dropped, in my 21st year. I studied economics at Indiana University, and I worked summers on the bond desk of McDonnell & Co., a New York Stock Exchange member firm; long Telephone yields made news when they punched through 6 percent. The Bretton Woods monetary system creaked and groaned. My first real job was on the Baltimore Sun. I was a year into the cub reporter's round of fires, crime news and obituaries when a slot opened up on the financial desk, then under the editorship of an amiable southerner named Jesse Glasgow. It was 1974, and nobody else wanted the job. I myself was lukewarm, business and financial writing not then being the journalistic acme of splendor it subsequently became. I remember talking to a local college professor as the S&P 500 was settling into what would turn out to be its generational lows. He said that it was futile to try to second-guess the market because prices instantly incorporated all relevant information. I came to see that markets are not one jot more detached or coldly calculating than the emotional people who inhabit them.
This insight came to me at Barron's, the staff of which I joined in 1975. Bob Bleiberg and Alan Abelson, editor and managing editor of that esteemed Dow Jones weekly, knew too much about markets, and about investors, to fall for the then-trendy efficient markets hypothesis. On the totem pole of prestige within financial journalism, the fixed income markets were then very close to ground zero. Barron's had no full-time bond columnist until I volunteered for the job in 1979. By then, interest rates had become big news. So, too, had the post-Bretton Woods dollar, which, unballasted by anything but the expressed good intentions of the Carter administration, was fast losing value. Before long, government securities were priced to yield 10 percent, a rate of interest last seen during the Civil War. Wall Street was in crisis. Journalistically, it was very heaven.
In 1983, I decided that what Wall Street needed was something else to read. It would be a twice-monthly journal on interest rates, the financial markets and monetary ideas. Within 12 pages, it would deliver the best investment ideas expressed in the finest prose and ornamented with the funniest cartoons. All for $200 per annum. So Grant's Interest Rate Observer came into the world on Nov. 7, 1983. Coincident with Vol. 1, No. 1 of Grant's was the publication of my first book, a life of the investor and political figure Bernard M. Baruch. I expected big things from this double launch - an outpouring of subscriptions to the one, rave reviews for the other. The reception rather resembled what Damon Runyon described as the "medium hello." In those early days I left a couple of dozen stamped and addressed copies of a brand-new editions of Grant's in the back seat of the taxi in which I had been riding to the post office. By the early spring of 1984, I was almost without funds to continue to publish, let alone to go swanning around Manhattan in taxicabs. Holman, who perhaps contracted a bit of my wife Patricia's infectious optimism. In any case, he invested what today would be counted a modest sum but then was, in the Grant's scale of things, a princely fortune. In any case, it was enough to set in motion the publication of what must be, by now, well over four million words. If I had to pick my favorite half dozen of this verbal outpouring, they would be the ones that, in three columns, hung over an article dated Oct. 20, 2006, about the coming crisis in credit. "Over the cliff with Morgan Stanley," our headline read.
Early in 2012, amid the post-crisis shriveling of interest rates, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York invited some of its more nettlesome critics to blow off steam within the confines of the Fed's own faux Italian Renaissance palazzo on Liberty Street in lower Manhattan. I was among the honored invitees, and I closed my talk with an allusion to a publication that, like Grant's, was better known for its voice than for the size of its circulation. Do you remember, I asked my audience of central bankers, the Irish provincial newspaper that, at the turn of the 20th century, directed its disapproving attention at Czar Nicholas II of Russia, editorially warning that potentate, "The Skibbereen Eagle has its eye on you"? I trust they got my meaning. Grant's Interest Rate Observer has its eye on them.
For 51 of his 77 years, James Flanigan has been the indispensable guide for his readers and colleagues to all aspects of American and international business-its upheavals, its transformations, its marvels and curiosities, its leaders and scoundrels, and the men and women of its rank and file. For Jim, journalism has always been an educational calling: ask him to describe his professional philosophy, and the words "teaching" and "learning" keep coming up. That's a mark of his openness to and fascination with the experiences that come in a neverending stream to the most inquisitive journalists, his joy in "the lessons learned in decades of reporting on economies and societies everywhere, businesses and people of all kinds," he observed recently. "Business journalism is a demanding but knockabout trade," he added, "full of secret clues and red herrings."
But it also reflects his fortune in having had as teachers early in his career two of the most remarkable business journalists of their time. The first was Ben Weberman, whose four decades in the profession included a stint as business editor of the New York Herald Tribune, where he gave the former copy boy James Flanigan a full-time job as a business reporter. "I don't know much about business," Flanigan confessed. "So I'll teach you," Weberman replied, "and you'll learn how the real world works." When the Trib folded in 1966, Flanigan moved to Forbes. There he was swept into the gravitational field of James W. Michaels, who as Forbes's editor was in the process of giving to the sedate, decorous business magazine journalism of the past the suitably modern tone of learned insolence that would characterize the Forbes of his era. Those of us who worked with Jim Flanigan after his subsequent move to the Los Angeles Times, which he served for 20 years, learned the editorial precepts of Jim Michaels almost at first-hand, for they were kept alive through Jim Flanigan's work. Michaels "demanded that the writing be clear and complex situations explained to the reader simply and directly," Flanigan recalls. "'Readers are nervous individuals,' he would say. 'You must take them by the elbow and walk them through.' A story should be 'dulce et utile'--sweetly or wittily told but also useful: come to the point." And indeed, you read Jim Flanigan's work not only for its percipience and foresight, but the craftsmanship with which he distilled these qualities into lucid gems of nine hundred or a thousand words, twice a week, every week-and when events warranted, three times a week or even four. He set a standard that the rest of us strived for in the knowledge that we were almost invariably doomed to fall short of his elegance of style.
That style is a reflection on paper of Jim's generous character. His shared insights into business and finance were the foundation stones of the Times's economic coverage, not least because of his perception that the making of Southern California was the diversity of its immigrant entrepreneurs and its workforce. In the same way, his personality provided the fulcrum of departmental esprit. "We all know that to be a good journalist you have to be a good person," says Davan Maharaj, The Times' editor-in-chief and a former business editor. "In my many years in our newsroom, I never heard a negative word about Jim. That's because apart from being a great journalist, he's a great colleague and a great human being." Jim Flanigan's career has encompassed a period of dizzying change in business, and there are few developments or trends he did not help us all comprehend-market booms and crashes, bubbles and bursts, scandals and triumphs. His approach to business was at once forgiving and uncompromising. Jim reserved his greatest abhorrence for corporate myopia; rereading his columns, one is struck by how often their topic is "vision," or more precisely its absence among business decision-makers. But he also displayed an abiding, optimistic faith in the best qualities of American business and in the values of its leaders, leavened by the hope that they would prove equal to their own aspirations. This was a lesson he absorbed from experience. "The work taught me long ago and keeps teaching me"-there's that word again-"that economic growth is the great hope and necessity for people to have a chance of a better life," he says. "But that belief starts with a deep faith in immigration. My mother and father came to the U.S. in the 1920s from Ireland. She had six years of education and he had seven. They left a physically lovely town on the west coast of Ireland but one that offered little or no work and opportunity. And they didn't find streets of New York paved with gold either. They found hard work, she as a domestic servant like many Irish girls in those days and he as a warehouseman." In the Thirties, Jim's father became one of the founders of New York's Grocery Warehouseman's Union (now part of the Teamsters), but continued to work nights in warehouses all his life, building an America that "gave me a great education and the opportunity to be a fellow who could follow dreams and love the work every day that I've done it." That experience helped make Jim Flanigan a most perceptive chronicler of the new immigrant experience-that wave of Asian and Hispanic entrepreneurship that has built California in recent decades. It was that experience of how America got built in the Twentieth Century that drives Jim's expansive conception of business as something that takes place on loading docks and factory floors, not merely in the corporate suite. Pondering Pope John Paul II's defense of Solidarity during a visit to his Polish homeland in 1983, Jim reminded his readers that "the striving for dignity in the American work force is in our oldest tradition-way back beyond the rise of labor unionism in the late 19th Century, to the very beginnings of our industry in New England." That same year, he warned that the gap between rich and poor was widening-anticipating by some three decades our current preoccupation with economic inequality. The ethos of "Neiman Marcus for the fortunate, K-Mart for the rest," he wrote, was "reversing an egalitarian trend of half a century." For generations of readers and colleagues, James Flanigan has defined an era- multiple eras-in business. To this day, he remains fascinated with the limitless variety of business and finance-banks, huge corporations, small ethnic cheese manufacturers, high-technology startups struggling for financing. His achievement is truly that of a lifetime.
Hobart Rowen, Washington Post
Carol J. Loomis, Fortune
James W. Michaels, Forbes
Leonard S. Silk (Posthumously), The New York Times
Marshall Loeb , Fortune/MONEY Magazine
Jane Bryant Quinn, Newsweek
Alen Abelson, Barron's
Stephen B. Shepard, Business Week
Norman Pearlstine, TIME
Allan Sloan, Newsweek
Paul E. Steiger, The Wall Street Journal
Floyd Norris, The New York Times
Louis Rukeyser, CNBC
Byron E. "Barney" Calame, The New York Times
Myron Kandel, CNN
Matthew Winkler, Bloomberg News
Daniel Hertzberg, The Wall Street Journal
Bill Emmott, The Economist
Walt Bogdanich, The New York Times
Steven Pearlstein, The Washington Post
Jerry Seib The Wall Street Journal
John Huey TIME
This award is dedicated to the memory of Lawrence Minard, former editor of Forbes Global, who had a long association with the Loeb Awards. An award winner in 1977, he became a preliminary judge in 1984 and joined the panel of final judges in 1987.
The award that bears his name recognizes the contributions of a business editor whose work does not receive a byline or whose face does not appear on the air for the work covered. The establishment of the award acknowledges an area of journalism that often goes unrecognized. In a posthumous tribute, Minard was the first recipient as part of the 2002 Loeb Awards. In 2003, it was given to Glenn Kramon, business editor of The New York Times; in 2004 to Michael Siconolfi, senior editor for financial investigative projects of The Wall Street Journal; in 2005 to Timothy K. Smith, assistant managing editor, Fortune; in 2006 to Ronald Henkoff, executive editor, Bloomberg News, and editor, Bloomberg Markets; in 2007 to Dan Kelly, news editor, Page One, The Wall Street Journal; in 2008 to Frank Comes, former assistant managing editor, BusinessWeek; in 2009 to Lawrence Ingrassia, business and financial editor, The New York Times; in 2010 to Alix Freedman, deputy managing editor, The Wall Street Journal; in 2011 to Hank Gilman, deputy managing editor, Fortune; in 2012 to Winnie O’Kelley, deputy business editor, The New York Times; in 2013 to Michael Williams, global enterprise editor, Reuters; in 2014 to John Brecher, executive editor for enterprise, Bloomberg News; in 2015 to Rebecca Blumenstein, deputy editor-in-chief, The Wall Street Journal; and in 2016 to Amy Stevens, Executive Editor of Professional News, Reuters.
Born Everett Lawrence Minard III, but known as Laury to his friends and colleagues, Minard began his 27-year career at Forbes as a reporter/researcher. He moved up the ranks to become managing editor of Forbes, a position he held for eight years, prior to joining Forbes Global as its founding editor in 1997.
When Nick Varchaver receives the first draft of a feature story from one of his writers, there is typically little delay before "the process" begins. He prints up a fresh copy, changing the font to Times New Roman, the point size to 12, and the right margin to a narrow 3 5/8". Then he bends over the draft at his desk, immovable as a plaster cast, a hand at each temple, and reads. When he is done, he will read it a second time-and a third, fourth, fifth, and often sixth time before he says a word to the writer.
The writers have learned to love the wait, shocking as that may seem. For during that time something extraordinary will occur- and they know it. Their stories will get immeasurably stronger, smarter, better. Their prose will get more precise. Their thinking, sharper. This, before a single word is changed. It all happens in Varchaver's head, and in the former white space of each page of the draft now filled with ballpoint scrawls, and in the long emails to the writer that will surely follow: Do you mean this (fill-in-the-blank)... or do you mean this? As Varchaver himself will say, "I'm a hard case for clarity." By fully immersing himself, he's able to see the way forward. "I once asked him what he looks for in this trance of reading and rereading," recalls Clifton Leaf, Fortune's editor-in-chief. "And Nick answered, 'All of a sudden, things that make sense the first five times I read them...stop making sense.'""What he didn't say, of course, is how damn good he is at finding what ultimately does make sense in any given tale," says Leaf. "Nick has an uncommon talent for identifying the holes in an argument-or pinpointing that key nugget that's missing from a narrative-and then helping his writers fill those gaps gracefully."
Varchaver began developing that keen sense of story at The American Lawyer, where he landed a job as a reporter shortly after receiving a Master's degree at Columbia Journalism School. At The American Lawyer, he also got his first taste of Steve Brill-and of Brill's reporting rigor, which Varchaver relished from the start. There, he wrote a number of powerful stories on the criminal justice system, including one feature about an Indianapolis man jailed for 19 months without ever being brought to trial-including for four months after prosecutors had dropped the charges-which the late Anthony Lewis of the Times praised for its "meticulous care" in reporting. Later stints took him to SmartMoney, and then to Brill's Content, before he was recruited by Fortune in 1999 to run the magazine's short-lived "e-Company" section and to write the occasional deep-dive feature-tales that often explored the dark edges of both business and humanity. A profile of inventor and serial litigant Jerome Lemelson captured the bizarre scene of a cancer-ridden, billionaire patent troll, celebrating yet one more empty legal victory from his hospital deathbed. Another piece-the definitive 11,000-word saga of Bernie Madoff that he wrote with James Bandler and Doris Burke-stirringly revealed the shame of the notorious swindler as he faced his accusers in court. (That story won the 2010 Loeb award for magazine reporting. With the Minard prize, Varchaver will now be one of only three people to win a Loeb for both writing and editing.)
But it was as an editor-particularly of complex corporate narratives and investigative pieces-that Varchaver found his true calling. In 2011, he edited "Inside Pfizer's Palace Coup," written by Peter Elkind, Jennifer Reingold, and Doris Burke, which won a Loeb Award the following year. Then, in 2013, he shepherded two features - Katherine Eban's "Dirty Medicine" and Reingold's "Squeezing Heinz" - that would later be named finalists for the Loeb. The year after that, Varchaver pulled off the same feat - editing two more Loeb finalists: Elkind's "Inside Elon Musk's $1.4 Billion Score" and Reingold's unforgettable tale of Ron Johnson disastrous run as J.C. Penney's CEO ("How to Fail in Business While Really, Really Trying"). Last year, yet another Varchaver-edited story-Peter Elkind's "Inside The Hack Of The Century," was a Loeb finalist. In the case of the J.C. Penney narrative, the editor helped Reingold reconstruct a telling anecdote that captured the board's self-involved disconnection from the calamity unfolding around it: a squabble over the chewiness of the chocolate-chip cookies served to them in quarterly meetings.
That element of human frailty-be it hubris, desperation, yearning, or some other consuming emotion-can be found in many of the stories Varchaver edits. He has a sixth sense for their often-obscured roles in unfolding business plots, say his writers. "The really scary thing is," says Reingold, "sometimes he can channel my own thoughts better than I can. I'll elaborate on something; he'll write it down. Then I'll wish I'd written it that way in the first place." "Nick is the unsung hero of every story of mine that he has edited," says Elkind, who spent two decades writing features for Fortune. "I've never had a more thoughtful and gifted editor-and I've worked with several great ones." Indeed, talk to any of Varchaver's writers and fellow editors over the years and they all return to the same themes: "his relentless effort to make the most complex story clearer, smarter, and fairer," as Elkind puts it; "the countless hours he spends structuring and streamlining," as his longtime Fortune colleague Brian O'Keefe says; and his uncanny ability, notes Reingold, "to extract the story's true essence." The legendary financial journalist Carol Loomis, who spent six decades at Fortune-earning no fewer than five lifetime achievement awards, including one of her four Loebs-says that when she looks back at stories of hers that Varchaver edited, she is invariably "grateful once again" for the guidance he supplied. "When Nick was my editor, I always knew I had his full attention," says Loomis. "If my story had holes in the first draft-lacked an air-tight argument, say, as to why we were spending 6,000 words on this subject at this precise time-he had a viewpoint and a plan for attacking the problem. Then he would leave me alone to think about it. And when I produced another draft, he was ready to give it a meticulous, close edit." Says Loomis, "It always improved the story."
Arlyn Gajilan, deputy editor for professional news at Reuters, notes that "Editors are usually one of three things. Some are wordsmiths capable of recasting sentences and weaving together paragraphs into compelling narratives. Some are skilled strategists with the ability to deploy reporting teams just where news is about to break. Others are mentors whose news judgment, depth of experience and wise guidance shape a generation of journalists. Amy is all three. She's a rarity in our profession."
After studying literature at Yale University, Stevens earned a law degree from Berkeley. Rather than practice, though, she joined The Wall Street Journal initially as a legal reporter, quickly impressing editors with her razor-sharp legal mind, her reporting skills and her refreshingly witty writing style. Stevens' first post for the Journal was in Los Angeles as a legal affairs reporter. Her colleague at the time, David Jefferson, recalls, "When Amy first arrived in the L.A. bureau of the Journal in the early 1990s, we were all impressed and a bit intimidated by her credentials. Not only did she come with great national news experience, she was a Yale grad and had earned a law degree! So we asked ourselves, 'What kind of crazy person spends all that time training to be a lawyer, only to become a lowly paid reporter?!' Soon, Amy filed a front-page article for the Journal and we all knew the answer: Amy was indeed insane - an insanely talented journalist!" A few years later, Stevens moved to New York to launch a weekly column for the Journal on the business of law. But her skill set stretched well beyond legal reporting. She became an editor on Page One, overseeing long-form, narrative projects, including an investigation into why sub- Saharan African women who were HIV positive were being urged by UNICEF to breastfeed their babies - the opposite of the advice given to women in developed countries. The story was included in the book, "The Best Business Stories of the Year: 2002 Edition," among other honors.
In January 2004, she was named editor of Weekend Journal, where she brought the rigorous reporting standards and lively writing of Page One and infused it into stories on topics from travel to tennis. She encouraged her writers and editors to treat the newspaper's main feature as a magazine cover - and relentlessly pored over drafts to make sure that readers would become irreversibly drawn in. She left the Journal after 16 years to become a deputy editor at Condé Nast Portfolio. At that magazine, in addition to editing long-form articles, Stevens edited and oversaw the front-of-the-book section, which won a National Magazine Award in 2008. "Her oeuvre spanned complex investigative pieces, sparkling features and gripping narratives. Quite a few of the articles she edited led to book contracts, including Helene Cooper's harrowing tale about her family's exile from Liberia and Lucette Lagnado's account of her Jewish family's life in Egypt," said former Portfolio editor Joanne Lipman. When the magazine folded in 2009, she took a brief detour into another medium, serving as supervising editor of the NPR program "Planet Money," before joining Reuters in 2010. Stevens joined Reuters to create a team charged with providing news for the company's legal clients and to ramp up legal coverage for financial and media clients. Her effort has blossomed into a thriving, 25-person operation that provides groundbreaking legal news for the Reuters wire and targeted news for Thomson Reuters' legal customers across several specialized areas.
Stevens is a born teacher - and it's not just the greener reporters who benefit from her guidance. "I had many years of editing experience when I went to work for Amy, with some very accomplished and demanding editors, but Amy has a special ability to impart wisdom while making the experience fun," said Eric Effron, Reuters' editor in charge of company news. "'You need to place the gem in the setting,' she told me about the first story I edited after I joined the Reuters legal team in 2010. I didn't know what she was talking about, but then she explained that while the story in question contained some excellent reporting ('the gem'), readers would fail to appreciate this unless it was clearly put in context. 'Think of the readers,' she said. They need to be oriented so the value of the precious information is apparent to them and not just sparkling in our own heads." It's an anecdote that exemplifies the special qualities Stevens brings to an editor - clever and demanding, but also humor and empathy. Former colleague Mike Miller recalls that lighter side of Stevens' personality when celebrating important milestones during their time in California: "I only wish NYC had a version of Farrell's which was the destination for every kid having a birthday party in San Diego. We would pack into the Country Squire (or some version thereof), fight over a spot in the way back, and then head for the restaurant in the Fashion Valley Mall. You had to order a 'zoo,' which was a giant silver bowl full of many different flavors of ice cream with little plastic animals stuck in it, amidst the candles. "We ended up eating sweet cold slop with broken purple giraffe legs and bits of wax and ash... but YUM," Miller laughs.
Rebecca Blumenstein, recipient of the 2015 Lawrence Minard Editor Award, says that if she had not entered journalism, she would have liked to be a rabbi or a nurse. But as a reporter and editor at the Journal for 20 years, colleagues say she has been both.
Blumenstein seldom uses the singular pronoun when describing her work. "I learned very early that you can get a lot more accomplished with others than on your own, "says the 48-year-old deputy editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal. Editor-in-Chief Gerard Baker says he backed Blumenstein's nomination because "she has a unique set of editing skills that stand her apart from virtually all journalists I work with: tenacity, an absolute determination to get the story and get it right, virtually whatever the circumstances; empathy, an ability to understand and motivate reporters and get the best out of them even when they feel they have spent their last effort." Other colleagues testify to her success: Deborah Solomon, who more than a decade ago worked for Blumenstein as a telecom reporter, credits her for help in managing a whistleblower in the WorldCom accounting fraud who got cold feet. Blumenstein directed her to "hold his hand until he trusts you," she recalls. "Some days I spent more time talking to the source than my husband." Executive Editor Almar Latour, who was also a reporter in the group, says Blumenstein was present for many late-night gigs as chief of the telecommunication and technology group. Her team landed multiple scoops during the trial of former WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers by developing a collaborative way of debriefing jurors during the trial. "She is the kind of boss who is not just there for you but there with you," he says. In 2003, the Journal won the Gerald Loeb Award for the coverage of the WorldCom accounting fraud case. Later, when Solomon had her second child, Blumenstein, a mother of three, counseled her that it was okay to step back and focus on her family for a bit. "She was my Sherpa and helped me figure out how to write a front-page story for The Wall Street Journal and so much else," says Solomon, now an editor for the Journal in Washington. "She wants to bring out the best in a reporter, which is somewhat unusual, as it's a competitive business." Growing up in Michigan as the oldest of five girls honed Blumenstein's people skills. She was - and remains - the family peacemaker. Blumenstein earned a bachelor's degree in economics and social science from the University of Michigan and was the editor in chief of her college paper. While in school she met her future husband, Alan Paul, who says that apart from being an award-winning journalist, his wife is also a fearsome pool shark. "I've had some great times in seedy bars watching her crush big macho men... One time in Ottawa, Canada, stands out," says Paul.
She began her career at the Tampa Tribune and went on to work at various news organizations, including Newsday. In 1993, she picked up an award for her coverage of the aftermath of the Long Island Railroad shooting. She joined the Journal in 1995 as a General Motors reporter based in Detroit. In 2005, she and her young family took a big risk when she raised her hand to be China bureau chief. "Rebecca didn't speak Chinese, "had no China background and, for all I knew, had never been to China," says John Bussey, who was the editor overseeing Asia for the Journal. After a lengthy interview process that included questions about her high school English teacher, Blumenstein was offered the position based on her "strong reputation as an editor and leader of reporters," says Bussey. China transformed her, opening her to a new world of events and possibilities, from the trivial - like the time in western China when she first sampled a local delicacy: "I had Yak butter and it made me nauseous," she recalls - to the profound, as in 2009, when she was the first foreign journalist called to ask Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao a question during his annual press conference watched by tens of millions of viewers. Soon after Blumenstein arrived in China several veteran reporters left the bureau for unrelated reasons and she had to scramble to hire new people and help them through the difficulties in getting the China story right. Jason Dean was one of the new recruits brought in from Taiwan who benefited from Blumenstein's ability to instill confidence in her reporters. "When I was laboring on a story about China's telecom industry early in her tenure, she forced me to just sit down and write it, saying, 'You already know this better than you realize,'" says Dean, now the Journal's Chicago bureau chief. Similarly, Blumenstein saw the potential in Carolyn Cui, a local hire and translator, who went on to become a Journal commodities reporter. Cui recalls how she once got immediate feedback on a story about the Chinese stock market. "She basically turned back the copy in an hour and she was the bureau chief. It was amazing that the she had the time," says Cui, who, at Blumenstein's urging, applied to and was accepted into the journalism program at Columbia University. Blumenstein didn't actually have the time; she simply burned the candle at both ends. "They were good reporters and I knew that they could, but there were a lot of versions of these stories that went back and forth, but a lot of it was done late at night," says Blumenstein, who would often stay up until one or two in the morning editing and answering calls from U.S. headquarters. The competition also kept her up. At home, Blumenstein's windows faced the apartment of a New York Times correspondent, so she never rested while her competition was awake. "I would see him burning the midnight oil, which would drive me bananas because when he was up I wanted to know what he was working on," she says.
In 2007, Blumenstein's team won the Pulitzer Prize for a series that chronicled the social and environmental consequences of China's rapid industrialization. Through it all her staff there remembers her for her support and calm leadership. "You always felt that she was listening to you ... as a person, even if she disagreed with you," says Kathy Chen, a friend and colleague who served as the deputy China bureau chief with Blumenstein. Blumenstein's China experience has made her a champion of that experience for others, as well as an example. "I think it was the best thing I ever did," she says. "Going abroad - for women, it's a great move." In the six years since she returned to New York, Blumenstein has held a series of increasingly important jobs - including foreign editor, head of wsj.com and, since 2013, deputy editor-in-chief - in which her achievements include overseeing expansion of the Journal's technology coverage. Her rapid ascent invites some colleagues to make historical comparisons. "Well, we're still trying to figure whether she's like Xie Jinping or Deng Xiao Ping," says News Corp. CEO Robert Thomson. "Both of them were revolutionaries as Rebecca is a revolutionary. But maybe more like Deng, she's a quiet revolutionary." "She's taller than Deng Xiao Ping," he adds. "And like the good bits of Deng, she's been able to challenge convention, she's been creative and she's been brave."
Fourteen years ago, John Brecher, then Page One editor of The Wall Street Journal, listened to a story pitch from an editor in the Journal's Washington Bureau. The pitch concerned paczki, the jelly-jammed doughnuts craved by Poles on the day before Lent."What's that word again?" Brecher said. The editor repeated it phonetically -"punch-key"- and spelled it. Brecher chuckled. "I don't even care what the story is," he said, "I just want that word on Page One."John Brecher, recipient of the 2014 Lawrence Minard Editor Award, makes editing look easy. In his bow tie and suspenders, his loafers up on his desk, Brecher, 62 years old, belies the age-old image of editor as cranky scourge of anyone foolish enough to carry a notebook.
Rather, he has earned a reputation as a "reporter's editor," the guy who believes a reporter can do the story before she does, who'll sit on the phone for an hour talking about what the story needs or doesn't need, and who makes the story better without leaving a fingerprint.
"When I was a reporter at the Miami Herald, I often felt that my editors didn't give me the treatment and guidance I thought I deserved," Brecher says of his first job. "When I would tell them that, they would say to me, 'Well, when you're an editor, you'll understand.' And you know, I never understood." Ron Suskind won a 1995 Pulitzer Prize writing for Brecher at the Journal, which won seven Pulitzers while Brecher was running Page One.
"You die alone and you write alone," says Suskind, now a best-selling author. "Your relationship to sources is transactional, the audience is distant, theoretical, rarely touched. You write for your editor, to hand it to him or to her and say, 'So, whaddya think?' Doing that with John Brecher--among the great editors of his generation--resulted in the finest stories I ever wrote. I know an army of reporters who'd say the same."
Brecher grew up in Jacksonville, Fla. He started reading The Wall Street Journal at the age of 7, picking stocks for his father to purchase. He knew editing suited him best barely two years after joining the Miami Herald in 1973.
"By his 22nd birthday, he was editing people twice his age," says his wife, Dottie Gaiter, who met and fell in love with Brecher on their first day working together at the Herald.
Brecher says he liked reporting but, "I got into the business to change the world. It was readily apparent that you could have a lot more impact as an editor. You could really affect a lot of reporters and a lot of storiesat the same time as an editor in a way you couldn't as a reporter."
In addition to the Herald, where he served two stints, Brecher has worked at the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville, Newsweek magazine, the Journal (three times), and now at Bloomberg News. For 12 years, he and Dottie wrote "Tastings," the Journal's wine column. They've also authored four books on wine.
Brecher politely declines to say which job he'd liked best, but says he's been "lucky to have been at places that are going through a special time that are talked about years later."
A few closely guarded secrets about Brecher: His favorite magazine is People. He and Dottie coined the term "critter wines" (think kangaroos). Stories he oversaw essentially gutted the U.S. tobacco industry, but his proudest achievement is creating "Open That Bottle Night." He once tried to moonwalk, a la Michael Jackson ("It was ugly," Dottie says).
He loves to find stories in nooks and niches others might skip over. Bill Grueskin, a former Brecher acolyte who's now dean of academic affairs at Columbia's journalism school, says Brecher "has the most unerring eye for a story in the business. He can come across an innocuous quote at the end of a press release and say, 'That's a story." The thing about John is, he was right about 99 percent of the time."
Once the story gets going, Brecher can get more excited about it than the reporter. "It's really important for me to feel the story inside," he says. "The problem is, once it's in my head, it's like an alien force that takes me over."
Dottie knows this all too well. She recalls an investigative series on Medicare by Bloomberg News reporter David Voreacos. "For weeks, I thought that when we went to bed at night that David Voreacos was in the middle of us, which was one too many people," Gaiter says. "He would tell me what great stuff David found today. He suffers for his art."
Yet, as with wine, Brecher has a discerning palate when choosing which stories to do. Why settle for simply "good" when you can go for "Delicious!" (two of the five wine rankings he and Dottie used).
"The biggest mistake editors make is to approve ideas that are just OK," Brecher says. "If we could all stop doing that, all of journalism would be better. If a story is just pretty good, it's a waste. You have to ask yourself: Is it good work? Is it important work? That's all that matters."
Lawrence Minard, Forbes
Glenn Kramon, The New York Times
Michael Siconolfi, The Wall Street Journal
Timothy K. Smith, Fortune
Ronald Henkoff , Bloomberg
Frank Comes, BusinessWeek
Dan Kelly, The Wall Street Journal
Lawrence Ingrassia, The New York Times
Alix Freedman, The Wall Street Journal
Hank Gilman, Fortune
Winnie O'Kelley, The New York Times
Michael Williams, Reuters
John Brecher, Bloomberg News
Rebecca Blumenstein, The Wall Street Journal
Amy Stevens, Reuters
Nick Varchaver, Fortune